In response to a question, Chief Justice John Roberts stated President Obama's first State of the Union address has "degenerated into a political pep rally." He further claimed, “The image of having the members of one branch of government standing up, literally surrounding the Supreme Court, cheering and hollering, while the court, according to the requirements of protocol, has to sit there, expressionless, I think is very troubling."
Sit there expressionless - isn’t that what Justices normally do? All judges sit expressionless when cases are debated. Even if a judge believes a defendant is guilty during a trial, they should not express any feelings openly or take sides. If they can’t sit quietly and listen, they are not mature enough to serve as judges. It’s that simple.
When President Obama referenced the Supreme Court’s decision during his address, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Judge Samuel Alito started shaking his head and he mouthed the words, "not true." Chief Justice Roberts’s statements attempt to justify his colleague’s tactless response.
One may agree or disagree with the President’s criticism of the Supreme Court. However, we must recognize the difference between the President and the Supreme Court Justices. The President is the Chief of the Executive branch and is a politician. Members of the Legislative branch are also politicians. They are all part of the political system. Supreme Court is the Judiciary. The biggest distinction is that politicians represent people, and the Supreme Court represents the law. The representatives of the people are not career diplomats and do not hide their opinions. This is true for all politicians, Republican or Democrat. An integral distinction is politicians can be voted out of the office. Justices of Supreme Court cannot be voted out. They have the security of a lifelong tenure.
If history is any indication, the difference of opinions between the political branch and the judicial branch is as old the country itself. The most glaring example of this difference was when the Supreme Court struck down many of FDR’s measures intended for the economic recovery during the Great Depression. FDR’s attempt to pass the Judicial Reorganization Bill was not received well by the public, even his famous Fireside Chats didn’t help him much. Despite being considered one of the most popular Presidents in history, FDR’s attempt to pass the Judicial Reorganization Bill of 1937 is considered his least popular measure.
FDR was a politician and was more than willing to share his opinion with people. But what did the Supreme Court Justices do when they were criticized in public? They were outraged but refrained from making any public comments. The Chief Justice of the Unites States at that time was Charles Hughes. He was the Republican Presidential candidate in the 1916 election but lost to Woodrow Wilson. In the end, it was clear FDR suffered a serious political defeat at the hands of the Chief Justice, however, the Chief Justice did not publically criticize the President. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito should learn a lesson from their predecessors.
American people know their politicians well. They know their politicians often say things they don’t mean, apologize, polarize, inspire, fear monger, lie and sometimes, even speak the truth. They don’t like to see their Supreme Court Justices behaving like politicians because they’ve elected enough politicians already.
But justices are real people with feelings and passions. Can’t they criticize and makes faces at the President? Sure. With their tactless politician-like behavior Justice John Roberts and Samuel Alito should step down, join the tea party protestors, criticize, and make faces whenever they want and for as long as they want.